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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE   ARTISTIC   LIFE                   273
In order to paint them, he must love them, and his spirit must commune with them. He must know and be familiar with their ways, and he must know how the same tree changes its shade and colour between morning and night or between a clear day and a misty morning, and he must see with his own eyes how the mountain clouds "entwine the rocks and encircle the trees." But more important than cold, objective observations is the spiritual baptism in nature. So did Li Jihhua (1565-1635) describe the spiritual baptism of a great paintei:
Huang Tziichiu often sits the whole day in the company of bamboos, trees, brushwood and piles of rocks in the wild mountains, and seems to have lost himself in his surroundings, in a manner puzzling to others. Sometimes he goes to the place where the river joins the sea to look at the currents and the waves, and he remains there, oblivious of wind and rain and the howling water-spirits. This is the work of the Great Absent-Minded [name of the painter], and that is why it is surcharged with moods and feelings3 ever-changing and wonderful like nature itself.
Secondly, Chinese paintings are always painted from mountain tops and specialize in those awesome grand aspects of mountain peaks or rocks, which only those who have seen them can believe. The retreat to the mountains is a search for grandeur in nature. A Chinese artist in America would first of all take for his subject the Grand Canyon or the mountains around Banff. And having come to such a grand surrounding, it is inevitable that he should obtain an elevation of the spirit as well as a physical elevation, It is strange that spiritual elevation always goes with physical elevation, on this planet, and life always looks different from an altitude of five thousand feet. People fond of horseback-riding always say that the moment one goes up on horseback one obtains a different view of the world, which I imagine must be true. The retreat to the mountains means, therefore, also a search for moral elevation, which is the last and most important reason for travel. Thus from his god-like height the artist surveys the world with a calm expansion of the spirit, and this spirit goes